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What is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?


The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) or Annual Coordinated Election Period is when Medicare beneficiaries can add, change, or drop their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage for the next year.  The AEP starts on October 15th and continues through December 7th of each year with coverage or plan changes taking effect on January 1st of the new year.

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) also provides an additional opportunity for people to change or drop their Medicare Advantage plan coverage (MA or MAPD).  The Medicare Advantage OEP begins January 1st and continues through March 31st with plan changes taking effect the first day of the month following the change.

As noted by Medicare, the MA-OEP allows people “enrolled in an MA plan, including newly MA-eligible individuals, to make a one-time election to go to another [Medicare Advantage] plan” - or to leave their Medicare Advantage plan, join a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan [PDP], and return to Original Medicare Part A and Part B. For example, an individual enrolled in an MA-PD plan may use the OEP to switch to: (1) another MA-PD plan; (2) an MA-only plan; or (3) Original Medicare with or without a PDP. The OEP will also allow an individual enrolled in an MA-only plan to switch to-- (1) another MA-only plan; (2) an MA-PD plan; or (3) Original Medicare with or without a PDP. However, this enrollment period does not allow for Part D changes for individuals enrolled in Original Medicare, including those with enrollment in stand-alone PDPs."

As a historical note:

Since 2005, a number of different terms have been used to describe the time each year when you can add, change, or drop your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage.  In past years, you may have even seen the term, "annual Open Enrollment Period" or "Medicare Open Enrollment" used interchangeably with the Annual Election Period (AEP) or Annual Coordinated Election Period describing the annual Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plan enrollment period starting October 15th and continuing through December 7th.  After January 2019, please be sure to recognize the OEP as the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1st through March 31st) - not to be confused with the AEP.

So, you might find the annual Medicare enrollment period starting October 15th and continuing through December 7th described as the:
  • AEP,
  • Annual Enrollment Period,
  • Annual Election Period,
  • Annual Coordinated Election Period,
  • Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP),
  • annual Open Enrollment Period,
  • Fall Open Enrollment season, or
  • Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Again, the terms are all referring to the same enrollment period. The modern term used in the Medicare & You Handbook describing the annual enrollment period starting October 15th and continuing through December 7th is: “Open Enrollment Period” for Medicare health and prescription drug plans.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Manual calls this time of year the Annual Election Period (AEP).
"Beginning in 2011, the AEP is from October 15 through December 7 of every year. It is also referred to as the 'Fall Open Enrollment' season and the 'Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage AND Medicare prescription drug coverage' in Medicare beneficiary publications and other tools. Plan sponsors may use these descriptions of the AEP in their member materials as well as in materials for prospective members."

During the annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP), Medicare beneficiaries can add, change, or drop their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage.

Changes in Medicare plan coverage during the AEP will take effect on January 1st of the next year.

After the close of the AEP, most people will only have a limited opportunity to change their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan coverage until the next AEP or Open Enrollment Period. See: What are the Medicare Part D Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)?

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you will be granted a second opportunity to "drop" your Medicare Advantage plan during the annual Medicare Advantage plan Disenrollment Period (or MADP) starting on January 1st and continuing through February 14th.  The changes will become effective the first day of the month after disenrollment.

If you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan, you will be returned to original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B - and you will have an opportunity to enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.  (Here is a link to our Medicare Part D plan finder: PDP-Finder.com.

Please note: We use the term annual Open Enrollment Period interchangeably with AEP (Annual Enrollment Period or Annual Coordinated Election Period).  However, when you are enrolling in a Medicare plan using a paper application, you may see "AEP" as an enrollment period option - meaning the annual Open Enrollment Period.  If you are enrolling between October 15th and December 7th, you will want to select "AEP" on your enrollment application as the enrollment period.

Here are a few terms related to AEP:  IEP, OEP, and SEP.

You can click on the following link to learn more about Special Enrollment Periods:  https://Q1FAQ.com/561.html

You can also click on the following link to learn more about how you "cancel" or "drop" or "disenroll" from your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan: https://Q1FAQ.com/355.html.





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Tips & Disclaimers
  • The Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan data on our site comes directly from Medicare and is subject to change.
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  • The benefit information provided is a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. For more information contact the plan.
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  • When enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must continue to pay your Medicare Part B premium.
  • Medicare beneficiaries with higher incomes may be required to pay both a Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). Read more on IRMAA.
  • Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage (MAPDs) are considered Medicare Part D plans and members with higher incomes may be subject to the Medicare Part D Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), just as members in stand-alone Part D plans. In certain situations, you can appeal IRMAA.
  • You must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Members may enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan only during specific times of the year. Contact the Medicare plan for more information.
  • If you are enrolled in a Medicare plan with Part D prescription drug coverage, you may be eligible for financial Extra Help to assist with the payment of your prescription drug premiums and drug purchases. To see if you qualify for Extra Help, call: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov; the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. TTY users should call, 1-800-325-0778; or your state Medicaid Office.
  • Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star rating system. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next.
  • A Medicare Advantage Private Fee-for-Service plan (PFFS) is not a Medicare supplement plan. Providers who do not contract with the plan are not required to see you except in an emergency.
  • Disclaimer for Institutional Special Needs Plan (SNP): This plan is available to anyone with Medicare who meets the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) level of care and resides in a nursing home.
  • Disclaimer for Dual Eligible (Medicare/Medicaid) Special Needs Plan (SNP): This plan is available to anyone who has both Medical Assistance from the State and Medicare. Premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles may vary based on the level of Extra Help you receive. Please contact the plan for further details.
  • Disclaimer for Chronic Condition Special Needs Plan (SNP): This plan is available to anyone with Medicare who has been diagnosed with the plan specific Chronic Condition.
  • Medicare MSA Plans combine a high deductible Medicare Advantage Plan and a trust or custodial savings account (as defined and/or approved by the IRS). The plan deposits money from Medicare into the account. You can use this money to pay for your health care costs, but only Medicare-covered expenses count toward your deductible. The amount deposited is usually less than your deductible amount, so you generally have to pay out-of-pocket before your coverage begins.
  • Medicare MSA Plans do not cover prescription drugs. If you join a Medicare MSA Plan, you can also join any separate (stand-alone) Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
  • There are additional restrictions to join an MSA plan, and enrollment is generally for a full calendar year unless you meet certain exceptions. Those who disenroll during the calendar year will owe a portion of the account deposit back to the plan. Contact the plan provider for additional information.
  • Medicare beneficiaries may enroll through the CMS Medicare Online Enrollment Center located at www.medicare.gov.
  • Medicare beneficiaries can file a complaint with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by calling 1-800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day/7 days or using the medicare.gov site. Beneficiaries can appoint a representative by submitting CMS Form-1696.